Sturgeon County is getting ready to launch a new, innovative broadband project.
 
According to a survey conducted in the county, 97 per cent of residents say internet access is very important to them. However, many residents and businesses are unhappy with their current internet service, a fact that has become a bigger issue with more people working from home during the pandemic.
 
"That's an incredible release of stress and anxiety that residents had been dealing with in the last couple of years due to COVID. Working from home, schooling from home and even remote university classes have been a struggle for residents and so we're really pleased to be able to in some way provide a higher level of service and give them access to a larger global community," said county mayor Alanna Hnatiw.
 
Sturgeon County has come up with a unique solution to help improve the issue. The county has contracted with Canadian Fiber Optics to design, build maintain and operate a fibre broadband network with a shared financing and revenue model.
 
The pilot project will start in the southwest portion of the county which includes Villeneuve, Calahoo, Riviere Que Barre, the Villeneuve airport and the Heritage and ProNorth Industrial Parks.
 
"High-speed internet is a need-to-have versus a nice-to-have for our residents and businesses, which is why we approved the broadband strategy and are investing up to $7.3-million for the pilot project area. Sturgeon County is very excited to be working with Canadian Fiber Optics to help fulfill council's vision for a connected community. Their experience with rural connectivity solutions and appreciation of the challenges faced by rural communities made them a very clear front-runner for the Sturgeon County broadband project," Hnatiw added.
 
The $7.3-million will be financed through debt financing and repaid over 15 years.
 
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has a target set for every Canadian home and business to minimum network speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads by 2030. According to Hnatiw, their new network should allow the county to surpass this.
 
Construction is expected to start in 2022 and the pilot project complete by the end of that year. The county will then take what they've learned from this initial step to continue implementing high-speed internet to the rest of the county.

Related: Province announces $150-million to expand broadband internet in rural Alberta